2016 Kia Optima Long-Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2016 Kia Optima Long-Term Road Test

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Read the introduction of this vehicle to our long-term fleet.

See all of the long-term updates on this vehicle.

What We Got

We decided to test a 2016 Kia Optima for one primary reason. Its 2011 redesign was such a dramatic success that we were curious whether the follow-up could continue the momentum. This time around, the exterior was essentially untouched, but the chassis, suspension and interior were new, as was a new turbocharged engine option.

In order to test the most new equipment, we skipped over the EX, SX and SXL trims and chose the LX to get the new 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder engine. With our engine of choice, the LX 1.6T gets a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, keyless entry, heated side mirrors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. We added the $2,600 Technology package, which added navigation, parking sonar, blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control and more. The total MSRP of our 2016 Kia Optima LX 1.6T was $27,545.

Midsize sedans get plenty of work when they're in our fleet and the Optima was no different. Here are some highlights from its year of service.

2016 Kia Optima


  • "I know many of my co-workers dislike our Kia Optima's slow responses when you first let off the brake from a stop. The Optima doesn't immediately start to creep forward like a car with a regular automatic transmission. The culprit seems to be 1.6T's dual-clutch automatic. It takes a couple beats to get going. While this trait can be annoying in certain situations, I've gotten used to it. It wouldn't stop me from buying an Optima." —  Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

  • "Let's start with the engine ... the thing emits an unrefined booming noise at higher rpm that makes it sound like a vacuum cleaner. ... Now for the transmission. It's an automated manual, which means a computer is doing the clutching. Whenever I parallel-park the Optima, I find myself wishing the in-gear 'creep' were more intuitive. Compared to a regular automatic, the computer needs an extra couple beats to engage and start creeping once you take your foot off the brake. Also, I find that the power comes on a bit unpredictably when it finally arrives, so it's hard to creep with precision." — Josh Sadlier, Content Strategist


  • "On my overnight trip to the Bay Area, I squeezed 546 miles out of a single tank of fuel. According to the onboard trip computer, I averaged 35.0 miles per gallon. Why is this noteworthy? Because in the 20 years I've been making this drive, I've never gotten this type of range, in any vehicle. I filled up in Gilroy and had stops in San Francisco, Vallejo and Berkeley before finally making it down south to Long Beach. And I arrived home with 8 miles of range left to spare." — Matt Jones, Senior Consumer Advice Editor

2016 Kia Optima

  • "The Optima's respectably quiet and has plenty of range. I can easily roll off hours of driving in it." —  Brent Romans


  • "It's quiet, smooth and glides over bumps. That's my subjective review of our long-term 2016 Kia Optima's suspension so far. ... The many potholes I encounter on my daily commute usually cause a lot of bouncing, almost regardless of the car. But this Optima seems pretty impervious. Small wheels and generous tire sidewall probably deserve part of the credit." — Travis Langness, Automotive Editor

  • "On my trek out to Colorado, I drove straight through the night for 1,100-plus miles and 16-ish hours, only stopping for gas and other needs. Once my seat was adjusted properly, I found that I just wasn't getting fatigued. My legs never grew sore or went to sleep. My lower back had enough lumbar support." — Michael Massey, Vehicle Testing Assistant

2016 Kia Optima

Cargo Space

  • "The shape of the trunk opening is common in this segment. It is plenty wide, but larger items require some manipulation to get inside. ... It is important to note the trunklid hinges. They lower into the storage space. As evidenced by the scuffs we have on the driver side hinge, they will crush cargo if you don't pack carefully." — Mike Schmidt, Senior Manager, Vehicle Testing

  • "Those rear seatback releases in the trunk are an added bonus, which means if you need to transport longer items, you won't need to climb into the rear seats to unlatch them. ... It's a good thing. But ... There is no latch inside the passenger compartment to fold the rear seats. ... Note to manufacturers: We like the trunk releases, but please keep the latches on the inside, too. OK, thanks, bye." —  Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor


  • "The upholstery in our more budget-minded Optima LX 1.6T doesn't make any pretensions to be leather, fake leather or even premium cloth. I actually kind of like it more because of it. Our current Optima's seat material is some kind of cloth/mesh hybrid that feels more like a good office chair ... a good standard for a car at this price. I'd take this material over the robo-reptilian stuff in our old (Optima) SX, and that car cost $3,000 more than this Optima." — Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

  • "There are a total of six places to power or charge electronic devices in a vehicle that seats five. Just below the center stack is a small covered tray with two 12-volt outlets and a USB port. There's also a charge-only USB port under the central armrest while backseat passengers get another 12-volt outlet and a charge-only USB port located on the back of the center console. ... Six outlets seem like overkill." —  Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor

Audio and Technology

  • "As delivered, our Optima was not compatible with Apple CarPlay or the latest version of Android Auto. With a software update, we gained those smartphone integration systems plus a map data update thrown in for good measure." — Calvin Kim, Road Test Editor

2016 Kia Optima

  • "This is the part of Uvo that allows you to create custom alerts for time, speed and location ('geo-fencing') if your Optima is being borrowed by your young driver. ... Once I sailed past the geo-fence distance, a notification popped on the touchscreen. And when I hit the gas on the highway a couple times to pass some slow-moving trucks, the Optima gave me a speed warning, too." — Brent Romans


  • "It's bound to happen, right? I mean, you drive a few hundred thousand miles over nine years in press vehicles without an accident ... and then you get in two. In the same day. One hour apart." — Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor

  • "Our Optima had about 15,000 miles on its odometer and that meant it was due for a scheduled service. I booked an appointment at my local Kia dealership. I was in and out in less than hour, which is impressively quick for an oil change and tire rotation. The total bill was quite agreeable, too: $45.49." — Brent Romans


  • "I now call our Kia Optima 'old reliable.' And it's not because of its lack of problems over its short career in our fleet (although that's nice too). To me, it's reliably likable every time I drive it. It has a no-nonsense interior design, comfortable seats and solid performance. It's a well-executed midsize sedan that rarely gives you a reason to dislike it. Not a bad version of reliable in my book." — Ed Hellwig, Executive Editor

  • "The Optima looks very plain, especially in silver. As I write this, I've been driving the Optima for the better part of three weeks. ... During that span I accidently attempted to enter a silver Hyundai Sonata one morning after I got coffee at a local Starbucks. On another occasion, we wasted a few minutes wandering the Costco parking lot as we tried to pick it out of the crowd. A few days later, I asked my mother to find the Optima in a mall parking lot. She correctly identified it, but not because it was distinctive. 'I knew the truck parked facing us was partially in our spot, so I figured our car was the one sticking out further than the rest,' she said." — Cameron Rogers

2016 Kia Optima

Maintenance & Repairs

Regular Maintenance:
The Optima requested routine service in 7,500-mile intervals. So we anticipated just two service visits during our 20,000-mile test. The first stop cost us $45 and the second $73. Each included oil changes, tire rotations and the usual assortment of inspections. Both experiences delivered acceptable levels of quality and convenience.

We did have one quality hiccup of note. The front edge of the seat bottoms for both front seats pulled out. We were able to tuck them back in, however.

Service Campaigns:
No recalls were issued during our test.

Fuel Economy and Resale Value

Observed Fuel Economy:
The EPA estimates 31 mpg (28 city/37 highway) for the Optima LX 1.6 Turbo. After 20,000 miles, we averaged 30.2 mpg. Our most fuel-efficient tank returned 39.9 mpg, and our best range on a single fill was 574 miles.

Resale and Depreciation:
Our Optima had an MSRP, including destination, of $27,545. After one year and 20,133 miles, the Edmunds TMV Calculator valued the sedan at $18,946 based on a private-party sale. This reflected 31 percent depreciation. For reference, our 2015 Hyundai Sonata depreciated 36 percent under similar circumstances.

Summing Up

Straightforward cabin design makes everything easy to use at a glance. Cloth seats are surprisingly comfortable on long trips. Nearly matched its EPA fuel economy rating for mixed driving. Capable of more than 500 miles per tank. Plenty of power from the small turbocharged engine. Spacious rear seats and solid cargo room in the trunk. No significant problems over the first 20,000 miles. 

Dual-clutch automatic transmission feels hesitant in certain situations compared to a traditional automatic transmission. Trunk hinges intrude on the cargo space. No interior releases to fold the rear seatbacks.

Bottom Line:
If you're looking for a spacious and functional sedan that's capable of delivering long-range comfort and great mileage, the Optima LX 1.6T delivers. Its standard dual-clutch automatic transmission can feel clunky at times, but it's not a deal-breaker. This is a sedan worth considering if you like straightforward interior designs, a compliant ride and plenty of room for a reasonable price.

Total Body Repair Costs: $6,349
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: $118.77 (over 12 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: 17 to repair body damage
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 39.9 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 22.6 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 30.2 mpg
Best Range: 574 miles
True Market Value at service end: $18,946 (private-party sale)
Depreciation: $8,599 (31% of original MSRP)
Final Odometer Reading: 20,133 miles

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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